Lady Griz Host Cal State Fullerton Sunday Afternoon


The Montana women’s basketball team will host Cal State Fullerton Sunday at 1 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena in the only game of the week for the Lady Griz, who return home after playing two games last weekend at the Christmas City Classic in Bethlehem, Pa.

Coverage: The game will air locally on KGVO 101.5 FM/1290 AM, with Tom Stage and Dick Slater calling the action. will offer video and live stats.

Where they stand: Montana is 4-2 after splitting a pair of games last weekend at the Christmas City Classic. The Lady Griz lost 80-53 to host Lehigh on Saturday, then bounced back with a 58-50 win over Drexel that was more one-sided than the final score suggests.

Cal State Fullerton, which plays at Montana State Thursday night, is 2-5. The Titans have dropped five straight since opening the season with wins over Portland State and Loyola Marymount. CSUF lost twice last weekend, 74-53 at SMU and 72-49 to Northern Illinois at SMU’s tournament.

Titans, last year and this year: Fullerton went 13-19 last season and finished seventh in the Big West Conference with a 5-11 league record. … The Titans returned three starters, but the two they lost were last season’s top two scorers, Chante Miles (19.4 ppg) and Kathleen Iwuoha (12.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg). … The team’s top returning scorer from last season is junior guard Samantha Logan, who averaged 5.4 points a year ago. … The Titans were picked seventh out of nine teams in the preseason Big West poll. Hawaii, UC Riverside, Cal Poly and Long Beach State all received first-place votes in the poll.


A native son returns: Third-year Cal State Fullerton coach Daron Park is a native of Great Falls and a 1994 graduate of Montana State.

Sunday’s game will be the first between Park and Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig, but Park has been on the bench three other times against Montana. All have been wins in favor of Park’s team.

He was an assistant at Utah when the Utes defeated Montana 68-42 in 2004-05 and 78-70 in 2006-07 in the opening round of the WNIT. Park also was an assistant at Maryland when the Terrapins defeated the Lady Griz 71-58 in Cancun early in the 2008-09 season.

History: Montana is 4-0 against Cal State Fullerton, with all four previous games being played in Missoula:

1982-83: 64-41 win at the Lady Griz Classic

1988-89: 82-67 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament

1990-91: 73-65 win at the Lady Griz Classic

1998-99: 70-48 win at the Lady Griz Classic

What to like (CSUF edition): The Titans have four starters averaging 10 or more points, led by freshman forward Michelle Berry’s 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds. … The team’s third- and fourth-leading scorers, guard Dani Craig (10.4/g) and guard Jade Vega (10.0/g) also are freshmen. … The team has just one senior, 6-foot-2 center Karima Gabriel, and three upperclassmen on its 13-player roster (which could go in this section or the next, depending on your point of view).

2015-12-04_0820_001What not to like (CSUF edition): The Titans are shooting 36.3 percent this season and are coming off 27.8 and 27.0 percent shooting games last weekend at SMU’s Thanksgiving tournament. … CSUF is shooting 30.1 percent from 3-point range, 64.3 percent from the line. … CSUF lost by 20 points at home to Weber State. … Fullerton is allowing 70 points per game, is getting outrebounded by more than five boards per game and has 32 more turnovers this season than assists.

Montana Note 1: It was an unpredictable set of games last weekend at Lehigh. In what was a four-point game with 90 seconds to go, Villanova finally broke free of Drexel to win 67-55. Right after that, Lehigh used a big second quarter to run away from Montana 80-53.

So what happens the next day? The Lady Griz, who never trailed and built a second-half lead of 19 points, rebounded with a nice win over Drexel. In the championship game, Villanova held high-scoring Lehigh to 29 percent shooting and Lexi Martins to just seven points in the Wildcats’ 65-44 win.

Betting on the underdogs would have paid off nicely on Sunday.

“That’s basketball. You look at scores and try to figure things out, and you just can’t,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “Matchups are different, and teams play differently.

“We weren’t very good that first night, and Lehigh was really good. We couldn’t stop them, and we couldn’t make a shot, and it got to be a long night. I was thinking it could be a long trip and that maybe I’d overscheduled.

“But we bounce back the next day against a good team. We defended the heck out of them and shot it well enough to build a 19-point lead. You can learn a lot from a thumping, and we also came back on a positive note. Hey, we can beat a good team. That wasn’t us the first night.”

Montana Note 2: The takeaway message from the first few weeks of the season: Get Kayleigh Valley involved early, and good things will happen.

In Saturday’s ugly loss to the Mountain Hawks, Valley took just nine shots and scored a quiet 11 points. In Sunday’s win over the Dragons, Valley had 11 points before the game was seven minutes old. She had 13 in the first quarter and matched her career high with 29 for the game.

“Kayleigh is one of the kids we run things for to get them the ball. To her teammates’ credit, they got her the ball where she can do damage with it. She was strong and had a big game,” Selvig said.

Valley also avoided foul trouble last weekend, something that had plagued her leading up to the tournament. She played 32 minutes against Lehigh, all 40 against Drexel.

Montana Note 3: It feels like this is going to be a maddening trend. The Lady Griz have had shooting games this season of 50.7 and 46.9 percent, and games of 24.6 and 30.8 percent. Why it’s maddening: It was mostly the same shots in all those games.

“We didn’t have trouble getting shots against Lehigh, we just didn’t make them,” said Selvig. “That doesn’t mean we could have beaten them had we made a few more shots. We would have had to outscore them, because we couldn’t stop them.”

Montana Note 4: Congratulations to McCalle Feller, who is now in the top 10 in program history for made 3-pointers with 115. She’ll be passing Kellie Rubel (118), Cheryl Keller (122), Shannon Cate (133) and Carla Beattie (136) this winter and end her career ranked No. 6. Mandy Morales sits in fifth with 186 triples.

Montana Note 5: New to this year’s notes: offensive and defensive efficiency, which sounds like advanced statistics but is really just a points-per-possession metric.

2015-12-04_0829It can be pretty telling stuff. Montana averaged 0.83 points per possession against Lehigh while scoring 53 points on Saturday and 0.90 points per possession while scoring 58 against Drexel the next day. Comparable, but one was a blowout loss and one a lopsided win.

The difference was defensive efficiency. Lehigh averaged 1.25 points per possession, the only time Montana has allowed anything this season above 1. Drexel averaged 0.75.

Montana’s best offensive efficiency of the season was the 1.32 points per possession it scored against MSU Northern. Its worst: 0.64 against Seattle. The team’s best defensive efficiency: 0.54 points per possession allowed against MSU Northern.

Montana Note 6: We’re still waiting for some drama this season. The Lady Griz have not yet had a game when a lead has been traded in the fourth quarter. … The Drexel game was the first this season that Montana never trailed.

Inside the numbers: Kayleigh Valley and McCalle Feller scored 15 of the team’s 19 made field goals Sunday against Lehigh. … Alycia Sims has grabbed nine or more rebounds all six games this year. She leads the Big Sky Conference with an 11.2 average. … Kayleigh Valley’s 29 points against Portland and Drexel are the best scoring games in the Big Sky this season. … Since putting it on Pacific with 16 points, Sierra Anderson is 3 for 18. … Who do you suppose leads Montana in assists this season? Starting point guard Haley Vining? Nope. Mekayla Isaak, who has 18. … Isaak also lead the team with nine blocks, a unique double.

Upcoming: A tough road trip to Mountain West Conference country. Montana will face Colorado State (currently 6-1) next Thursday in Fort Collins and Wyoming (3-1) next Saturday in Laramie. The Rams’ only loss this season: 49-48 at Pennsylvania. The Cowgirls’ only loss was a 70-64 setback to Saint Mary’s.